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NDSU-Downtown moving along

History and the future are on a collision course as North Dakota State University moves toward renovation of the building that will anchor NDSU-Downtown.

History and the future are on a collision course as North Dakota State University moves toward renovation of the building that will anchor NDSU-Downtown.

Restoration of the 1903 Robb-Lawrence building -- a four-story Romanesque structure that long housed Northern School Supply at 17 8th St. N. -- can begin as soon as the North Dakota State Historical Society and National Parks Service grant approval.

A delay in approval from those agencies could delay the project, according to architect Michael J. Burns of Moorhead.

Plans detailing work for prospective contractors on the estimated $8 million project were completed Friday.

Tom Linn, architecture project manager for the State Historical Society, said his office awaits those plans for approval. "We are waiting for information from the project owner and architect," Linn said. "There are likely some issues that will need to be addressed."


Once the state completes its review, plans are forwarded to the National Parks Service, which has oversight on projects involving historic buildings.

Keith Bjerke, NDSU assistant to President Joseph Chapman, said a committee overseeing the project meets Tuesday and will likely publish on Thursday, in The Forum, a call for bids from contractors.

The project owner is Kilbourne Design Group, an entity created by building owner Doug Burgum, the university and the NDSU Foundation for the construction phase of the project.

Bjerke and Burns said they expect a competitive bidding process.

"There seems to be a lot of interest, and that's good. That says it's a good project," Bjerke said. "This, remember, will be part of several projects for NDSU-Downtown."

The 66,000-square-foot Robb-Lawrence building will house the university's architecture and studio arts programs.

"We've had tons of interest," Burns said. "The bidding climate should be quite favorable. Contractors are hungry for work."

Burns said they are shooting for a Dec. 12 bid opening.


"I don't think we'll hear from the Park Service until the middle of December," Burns said. "By the time we get the bids back, we hope to have some answers."

Linn said it typically takes the National Parks Service 30 days to review a project.

A walk-through for contractors is tentatively set for Dec. 4. "This project is way too complicated not to do that," Burns said of the walk-through. For one thing, the building is not perfectly rectangular -- its facing walls were built at angles to one another.

Maple floors in the building, some damaged by moisture, will be leveled and preserved, Burns said.

"It was built to follow the street lines," Burns said. "There are a lot of unique elements in its design."

If work can begin soon, the job could be completed in time for NDSU to occupy the building in the summer of 2004.

Without major design changes, work could begin this January, Burns said. Four small, gas-fired boilers, plus space heaters, will heat the building during early construction, Burns said.

Demolition of the building's basement floor is the first order of business. Once drain tile and a sump system are in place, a new floor can be poured, Burns said.


"They'll be able to be in the building quite a while before they even have to remove the roof," Burns said. "The building is cleared out, for the most part. The asbestos is gone and most of the debris is out of there."

Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Gerry Gilmour at (701) 241-5560

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